Tale of the (Video) Tape

You may consider yourself a college football fanatic, but I'd be willing to bet serious money that John Sells has seen more college football than you could ever even imagine watching. The reason? Watching college football is his job. You heard me correctly. As the University of Cincinnati's football video coordinator, John Sells makes a living out of watching college football.

There is more to it than that, of course, and Sells will be the first to admit that.  But what does a video coordinator actually do all day?  Bearcat Insider went behind the scenes Saturday afternoon, and I left the encounter possessing far more knowledge than what I had arrived with.


“Anytime anybody asks me what I do and I tell them, they don’t really know what it is,” said Sells of his job description.  “You’ve got every game, every practice, every opponent’s video that comes in, highlight videos.  I think there’s just more to it than when you say it to any average person; they don’t really know what all goes into it, necessarily.  Probably the biggest thing they wouldn’t know is that I’m here during the season 80-100 hours a week, every day, there’s no holidays and all that.”



Do not adjust your computer monitors.  You read that correctly: 80-100 hours a week.  During the season fans may expect the head coach or offensive and defensive coordinators to put in those kinds of hours, but video coordinator isn’t necessarily one of those positions that immediately comes to mind when you think of long days at the office.  But where do you think the rest of the coaching staff gets their source material?  There’s no stork doing deliveries here.  No, the edited video coaches use to analyze their own and opposing teams all comes from the desk of John Sells.


Through spring practices, Sells and his crew have been filming with three cameras- one in the press box for the sideline view, as well as one in each of the end zones.  Sells broke down for us the process he went through during Saturday morning’s 20-period practice and scrimmage.  After seven periods of one-on-one drills, Sells takes to editing together that tape while practice is still going on.  Finishing that bit, Sells heads out for the seven-on-seven film.  The scrimmage at the end of practice Saturday ran for about eight periods, so Sells had his crew switch tapes halfway through so he could start editing together the film of the first half of the scrimmage while the second is still being played.  His time saving techniques allowed for Sells to be done with all editing Saturday about 30-40 minutes after the conclusion of the scrimmage.


What exactly is all this editing for, you ask?  Well, for the seven-on-seven and scrimmage portions of practice especially, the coaches will receive copies of the tape giving them the sideline view, and a view from a respective end zone.


“I give the defensive coaches the end zone angle that’s to the defense’s back, and I give the offense the one that’s the offense’s back,” said Sells.  “If they’re going the same way the whole practice it’s easy, but when they’re switching directions, turning and coming the other way, you have to match the plays up so that you switch them around and then you end up with it so that every play is to the defense’s back or the offense’s back.”


So that takes care of the practice portion of Sells’ job, but what more comes into the picture once the regular season gets underway?


Who do you think is responsible for getting the coaching staff their film for analyzing and scouting opponents?  How does all of that film get acquired?  Again, thank John Sells.


“Well, there’s really three ways now,” said Sells of trading film with opponents.  “It used to be everything was on the tape, and you would drive and meet people in the middle, or send it on an airplane.  You still use airplanes to an extent, but the biggest difference now is that we can do everything digitally with a lot of people.”


The field of football video has evolved with technology.  When it comes to trading film, Sells can send all of the team’s footage as an AVI file that’s placed on an external hard drive.  Another new way film is being traded is over the internet, which Sells did most recently with Southern Miss prior to the Papa Johns.com Bowl.


The more things change, the more things stay the same however, and sometimes the trading of film is still done the old fashioned way.  Simply tapes or DVD’s are often traded with schools that don’t have the digital capabilities Sells and UC possess.  Also, Sells doesn’t mind making a drive to do a trade by hand, albeit not a far drive, of course.


Louisville’s close enough that I’ll just drive and meet them in the middle and we just hand it off,” said Sells.  “When we’re playing like, Syracuse, you stick it on an airplane, unless you do it on the internet.”


Entering his second regular season at UC, Sells has been around the game of football nearly his entire life.  After playing football at Ball State, Sells didn’t really find much of anything interesting to do with his business degree.  That was when Sells got his video coordinating start, as a graduate assistant for the Cardinals.


From Ball State as a GA to coordinating at a BCS program, Sells has loved what he’s done every step of the way.


“I knew all along that I didn’t want to be a coach, but I did want to stay around (football), so this was a good way to do that.”


You won’t realize it watching the Bearcats on the field this season, but video coordinator John Sells will be playing an important part in the success of the college football we watch in Cincinnati this fall.


But no matter how much we watch, we’ll probably never come close to have seen as much college football as John Sells has watched over his career.


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